About User Experience

I recently returned from vacation. I spent about two weeks on a Greek island trying to stay away from computers among other things :D. I had to fill up all the spare time I had with something (I mean there is a limit on how much time you can spend sleeping, eating, talking, or swimming). Reading something interesting is definitely both enjoyable and useful. So, I took two books with me: one on Flex and another one on user experience.

And what a delightful surprise was the one on user experience. If you build software products or web applications then you should definitely read Bill Buxton’s book. “Sketching User Experiences”. It doesn’t matter if you are a designer, a developer, or a program manager. This book will most likely surprise you on many levels. My personal interest on the subject is quite obvious: I wanted to better understand the design process and different techniques you can use. Also, I was looking for a different angle to understand why so many Flash projects shine when it comes to user experience. Well, Buxton thinks that what happens between states is as important as what happens in each state (trust me there are so many interesting lessons, this is only one small example). In other words the way you design the transitions is important for the overall experience.

I think this is one important reason for why so many Flash projects are so brilliant. Think about it. If your background is in developing web applications then you are trained to see the application as a graph of pages. The user chooses some item from the menu and boom, a new page is displayed. On that page he clicks on a link and boom another page is displayed. Every time you destroy the current page and bring up the next page in a succession.

When you build Rich Internet Applications, you tend to take into consideration the space in between the states as well the states: what happens while a particular piece of the application is loading or what happens when a user chooses the Contact section. Animations, transitions, lazy loading, and modularizing the app – all come together in order to shape the overall experience.

The second book wasn’t that good. Hence my advice to you: when you know you’ll have time to really focus on reading and understanding what you’re reading, don’t take with you only one book. Never! Take at least two. Because this is a fact: only one of them could be the worst book you’ve read lately :D

What great books on the subject of user experience have you read?

4 thoughts on “About User Experience

  1. I recommend About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design by Alan Cooper and Subject to Change by several folks at Adaptive Path

  2. There are lots of great Flash sites, but I think we’re learning more and more that Flash isn’t necessary. Case in point: http://mckinney.com (my agency’s new website). It’s built completely in HTML5 and optimized for mobile touch for a seamless experience across devices.

    In terms of UX books — I’ll recommend an unorthodox choice. “Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter” by Tom Bissell. I’ve always been pretty anti video game, but this book really got me thinking about what I could learn from them and apply to the work that I do in other mediums.

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